Dance Hall Daze

Until the eighth grade, I went to a Catholic school. In junior high, we had mixers with other Catholic schools. For three bucks, you could bump around in a darkened Catholic school gym with your friends, drinking Cokes and giggling at the guys trying to break dance. I remember many mixers that were mostly just standing against the wall, hoping to get asked to dance. As a painfully shy kid, more than a little awkward, I can’t imagine why I kept going at all.

Grade school dances were awkward and weird and I never had the right clothes and the cute boys never asked me to dance. One year my best friend at the time got asked to dance by THE boy I had been crushing on for years. I sat on a hay bale (a hay bale? Must have been a fall festival or something) and off she went to sway with him. For that reason, I still can’t listen to “Every Rose” without feeling a little twinge of angsty nostalgia.

By eighth grade I loosened up a little and found I do like to shake a tailfeather now and then. Apparently, you can’t keep me on the wall long if the DJ is spinning a little “Push It” or “Love Shack.”  Especially once I had decided I liked dancing more than I cared about the opinions of my classmates.

There were rumors that if you got too close to a boy when dancing the chaperones would come by and suggest that you “leave room for the Holy Spirit,” though I never heard anyone actually say those words at a dance. Kids danced close, I suppose, and there was a distinct possibility that, if you were a girl, you might end your dance red-faced because you could tell he totally had a boner since the poor dudes hadn’t really gotten control of their pants-parts yet. I don’t remember people doing anything too scandalous but maybe it’s because I was too busy spazzing out to “Rock Me Amadeus.” Also – again – I didn’t really dance with boys, just a lot of energetic flailing on my own.

High school was a horse of different color. High school dances were much better than grade school dances. I chose to go to a public school rather than follow my classmates to four more years of uniforms, religion class, and regular confession. Our school dances were louder and dancier. There were kids four years older than me, kids from rougher neighborhoods, kids who could break dance for real instead of the white-boy suburban shenanigans of grade school.

High school, it didn’t matter if I didn’t dance with a boy – there was the Electric Slide and a slew of other line dances we just made up. Kids got a little more graphic on the dance floor in high school and the chaperones were always re-directing some roamin’ hands or suggesting a little less pressure in the hip region. Plus, I had boyfriends who went to the same school and no longer worried about who was going to

I have already told you I was reared in the Roman Catholic tradition and all the kids at my school were pretty much Catholic. We had a few Lutherans and a Presbyterian or two, but mostly we were all a bunch of fish-frying ash-dashing rosary-praying saint-lovers. In high school there were Presbyterians and Evangelicals, Muslims (GASP) and Methodists. A veritable cornucopia of spirtual dishes from which to sample.

And there were Mormons. (DOUBLE GASP)

I’d never met a Mormon. I’d met plenty of Jehovah’s witnesses after my sister tricked me into opening the door for them once by reassuring me, “They’re friends of Mom’s!” (They weren’t.)

High school! FULL of Mormons!

Then I went to a dance at my friend’s church. My friend who was Mormon.

We got dressed at her house, to go with her sister and brother.

There was a wardrobe check before we left. Her retired military father made us line up in the kitchen so he could approve our clothing as appropriate or not. Her sister was sent back to change – something about a neckline too low for a church dance.

I do remember what I was wearing – a slightly above the knee skirt and long-sleeved button-down blouse of the same pale blue with pink flowers material, white tights, and navy blue flats with little bows on them. I figured my skirt was too short, but he let me go. I’m not sure how I got ok’d – maybe it’s because I wasn’t his kid? Maybe he knew I didn’t have any other clothes?

The dance was in the church gym. It wasn’t as dim as my high school or junior high dances.

They were playing popular music but someone kept stopping the music to discuss the lyrics – were they appropriate? Were they not? Maybe we should stop playing this song, just to be safe. And then ten minutes later, lights up, no music, have to check the words again.

Chaperones (all women, as I recall) strolled the room with brooms.

Not to clean.

If couples were dancing inappropriately, the chaperones would make the girl dance with the broom.

Just the girl. The guy was allowed to go dance with someone else.

Some very  nice Mormon boy asked me to dance and we were swaying along, trying to get through the song before some inappropriate lyrics happened and the party was shut down for the 6 minutes it took for them to argue out if we were old enough to listen to the rest.

Let me briefly state that I was the goodiest goody-two-shoes you ever did see in high school. I never snuck out, I didn’t drink or smoke, good grades, blah blah blah. I was also, as mentioned before, SHY.

I think my fingerprints might have been touching this boy. His fingernails may have been brushing my shirt. We were working some serious Franken-dancing: mostly off the beat, stiff-armed, stiff-legged.

Broom-hilda stomped up, glared, and said to me, “Do you want to dance with the broom?”

I was mortified. I shook my head and backed up. We were still holding our arms out miming dancing but were really not technically in physical contact any more.

The next day we went to her Temple for Sunday school which was odd for me, in my church Sunday school was only for little kids.

When I got home the next day, my parents were terribly curious about my time with the Mormons and my mother’s eyebrow went up clear to her hairline when I told her about the broom.

“Only the girls had to dance with the broom?”

I’m a long way from dancing with brooms. I learned ballroom dancing with Husband and we do sexy-dancing like the cha cha and salsa, and I cannot imagine what that Broom-hilda chaperone lady would say.

A related Passive-Aggressive Note is here.

3 Comments

  1. How did I go to the same Catholic Grade School Dance as you? I was born in 1948! The difference was, there was a teepee on the dance floor and my “boyfriend” suggested that we go inside and that is where I got my first “hickie” which was so big that it did not go away until last week!

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